Mike Haugh has always enjoyed learning about cars. Starting in seventh grade, he helped his uncle at his repair shop for five years. After high school, like many young adults, Mike didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. He attended St. Cloud State, where he earned a degree in business management. After college, he worked in sales for a while, but didn’t find the work engaging. True to his passion, Mike returned to the auto industry as a parts manager, which prepared him for his current role as a collision estimator. Mike has been in the auto industry for almost three years, and he loves the work. Mike and the auto body tech work together to diagnose problems, figure out solutions and determine estimates and parts needed for repairs. Then Mike orders parts, checks them over, and the team gets started putting the car back together.
Eventually Mike would like to be a shop manager, and he’s taking the right steps to get there. To be a good manager, you need to know what it’s like to work in every position, and his experience as an intern, parts manager and collision estimator, as well as his education in business management, is preparing him for a leadership role.
Position: Collision Estimator
Job description: Act as liaison between customers, their insurers and auto techs to guide car repairs through the shop. Order parts to repair cars and provide excellent customer service.
Salary: Median salary for a collision estimator is $46,5001
Job outlook: Average
Education: High school diploma required. Auto-specific degree recommended.
Character traits: Excellent communicator. Technical know-how. Attention to details. Ability to multi-task.
Considerations: Challenge to constantly manage multiple projects.
Like any job, being a collision estimator is stressful at times and the hours can be long—Mike’s day begins at 6 a.m.—but it’s rewarding when you’re doing what you love. Mike notes that it’s cool to see the team work their magic on a car that’s crunched up like a pop can and make it look like new a week or two later. The transformation is like a work of art.
When customers come in after an accident, they’re typically worked up and worried. One of the best parts of being a collision estimator for Mike is seeing the look of relief on customers’ faces when they receive their car in working condition again.
Mike’s best advice for people who want to become collision estimators is to work your way up in different roles, just like he did. In every step of his career, he learned something new about car repairs, parts and the process a vehicle takes through the auto shop.
The most successful estimators are able to multitask and handle stress well, as this is a high-stress job at times. The ability to keep your cool when the job gets hectic is an essential trait of collision estimators.
Earning an auto-specific education helps collision estimators gain technical knowledge of car mechanics and repairs. Collision estimators also benefit from experience in other auto positions, such as service or body tech. Estimators are required to continue their education with courses like I-CAR on an ongoing basis.
Vehicles continue to evolve and get more complex – from fuel to electronics to plastic panels – and it’s definitely going to continue. These advances in cars change everything about how auto shops approach repairs. Technology is huge in every industry